REQUESTING FLYBY: Summerslam 2014 Review
Aug 18, 2014 - 6:49:19 AM
Summerslam 2014 Review
Summerslam 2014 had the advantage of a brilliantly stacked card befitting its status as the second biggest show of the year and the odds were good that we would be seeing an event to stand up to 1992, 1998, 2002, 2008 and 2013 in the annals of great summer classics, and I think it delivered on that promise to a large extent with an excellent first hour and a half and a jaw dropping main event. Raw is going to be must see and that’s what you want out of a pay-per-view of this magnitude. The crowd were disappointing, I thought, but the move to New York/New Jersey next year will solve that problem I would think. Anyway, enough with the preamble, let’s get on with the match discussion.
Dolph Ziggler defeated The Miz to win the Intercontinental Title
Miz came out wearing some sort of Lawrence of Arabia robe that made him look like an utter douchebag, which was, of course, the central point given his Hollywood heel character. His promo about being non-CGI, possessing the moneymaker and trashing the Lakers got some decent heat; it’s clear that Miz having some fun with the gimmick. Ziggler got a nice enough pop, one of the better ones of the evening.
The match itself started at a hot pace, with Miz missing a shot and Ziggler trying to get a quick pin with a sunset flip and a roll up. In a time honoured heel move, the Awesome One bailed to avoid being hit in the moneymaker, and after a Thesz press from Dolph, Miz bailed again. What was nice about this heel tactic was that it was actually shown to work, as Mizanin ended up throwing Ziggler chest first into the corner, whereupon he showed his tremendous bumping skills. The pace never really let up, and there were some tremendous counters; the sequence where Miz intercepted the fameasser, Zigs skinned the cat, missed the superkick to the moneymaker, got taken into a single leg takedown, dodged the Skull Crushing Finale, and hit the superkick for a long two count was absolutely breathtaking. Similarly, the Show Off’s selling of the figure four when it was finally applied to him was fantastic, screaming in pain until he determinedly made it to the ropes. The finish was as crisply performed as the previous set of counters, with the Skull Crushing Finale hit beautifully as a counter to fameasser, Dolph kicking out and moments later catching Miz on the ropes with the Zig Zag for the win. Ziggler appeared to have genuine joy for winning the IC strap and Miz having a 2002 Christian-style temper tantrum was a fun touch.
Honestly, the match was exactly what you want out of a curtain jerker; a breakneck pace, plenty of reversals, crisp high spots and a decent story. It very much got the show off on the right note. Now we can look forward to these two feuding for a while and playing hot potato with the belt for a bit, which I am very much up for seeing. The midcard has had a great deal more focus since the unification of the World Heavyweight Title and the WWE Title, and the Intercontinental Title has been prominently featured, which is wonderful to see.
FLYBY RATING: ***¼
Paige defeated AJ to win the Divas Title
Paige has been on fire as a villain of late, and her mannerisms on the way to the ring were totally on point. The skipping parody was effective in establishing her instability, and the frenemies theme that Paige mistakenly in kayfabe still believed to be present was shown by her offer of a heel handshake which AJ took and then began to bite the hand, showing that Dean Ambrose isn’t the only unstable babyface in town. Kudos to the Luis Suarez reference made by JBL on commentary! Miss Lee started like a house on fire, yanking out hair and smashing her challenger’s head off announce table and the apron. Upon her recovery, Paige caught AJ and used her superior strength to crash her body off the barrier. The creepy way she crawled back in the ring and mounted the champion reminded me of 2009 ‘Viper’ Orton. She cemented the crazy by pulling some of AJ’s hair out and then hit some sick knee lifts through the ropes. However, AJ was able to push an overconfident Englishwoman off the turnbuckle, and then fly off the top to the outside with a sick clothesline very much reminiscent of her husband. There was a terrific near fall after the shining wizard which had finished Paige off at the previous pay-per-view, just before AJ rolled into the Black Widow for another peril spot, only to have it countered into Ram-Paige for the three! I loved that it was a 100% clean win, and the kiss on the cheek to an out of it AJ was good heel work. The ladies worked stiff and fast with each other and used their time very well indeed. I could have watched a lot more of that. I suspected before the match that Paige would win and that the feud would continue, and I’m sure that Night of Champion could have them wrestle a total barn burner. As it was, their lack of time just stopped them short of three stars.
FLYBY RATING: **¾
Rusev defeated Jack Swagger in a flag match
I was looking forward to this being a traditional flag match, as it would have protected both men in a loss and been something a bit different, but instead it turned out to be pinfall or submission with the “reward” of raising the winner’s flag over the ring with the national anthem being played, which was a bit odd for me. That confusion over the rules harmed the first few minutes, for me. The typical cheap heat promo from Lana was well delivered, though nothing we haven’t heard before, while the military entrance for Swagger was good fun and showed how over the “We The People” chant really is, especially given how dead that crowd were for large portions of the evening. Rusev going for a cheap ambush but being trapped in the Patriot Lock was a great bit of storytelling which they followed through with as the Bulgarian Brute sold the ankle throughout the first portion of the match. Swagger started with a hot pace and went after the injured body part, as well as running right over the Russian Sympathiser with a clothesline but Rusev managed to take control after a missed Swagger Bomb. Moving slowly and using his weight advantage, Rusev tried to methodically take apart his American opponent, but.Swagger made a well-timed comeback with a huge belly to belly suplex, a whip into the corner and a big boot to the face. The Swagger Bomb landed successfully on the second time of asking but the All American American was still selling the ribs, showing that he would be vulnerable if Rusev could weather the patriotic storm..
Now we get to the point of the match that saw the most discussion on Twitter last night. Rusev hit a massive super kick to ribs and then one to the head, but when he was told to “CRUSH” by Lana, he couldn’t lock in The Accolade due to his ankle injury, having to put on a weaker, modified version. So far, so good, and great psychology from the big man. Swagger broke out of it and put the Patriot Lock on again. You would think that once Rusev rolled onto his front and kicked out of it, he would be practically on one leg again, especially having been in the Patriot Lock again, but instead, after whiffing on a spin kick, he was able to put on the full version of The Accolade- which was very poor psychology based on what had gone before. I’m sat here watching the replay, and to be fair, Rusev is wincing in pain and screaming as he has it in, but really, he shouldn’t have been able to get a base at all. Then we have the Swagger passing out in the hold thing. Was it meant to be his Stone Cold moment? If it was, he probably should have resisted for a bit longer. Those sorts of niggles don’t detract too much from the match, as it had plenty of drama and hard hitting action, but it is a shame that that little plot hole was there in the story. The cheap shot to Zeb, a kind of riff on the original plan for Jose Lothario being attacked by Vader in the aftermath of Summerslam ‘96, probably ensures that this feud may go on a little longer.
FLYBY RATING: ***
Seth Rollins defeated Dean Ambrose in a Lumberjack Match
The match I was looking forward to most began with an absolutely awesome video package chronicling the history of the two men. In an anticipated piece of fraught storytelling, the lumberjacks were all people The Shield took out during their dominant run, adding to the sense of danger and unpredictability. In a volcanic start, both men were thrown to the outside early and thrown straight back in by lumberjacks doing their job in a traditional way…at least to start with. Ambrose, after establishing dominance in the brawling game, focused on inflicting pain and humiliation on his former stablemate, locking on an unorthodox submission. When Ambrose got tossed out he attacked the lumberjacks before they could attack him, which was great character work on The Lunatic Fringe’s part. In a cerebral move, Seth then threw him out again for vengeful lumberjacks to beat him down, which meant that the technician Rollins could go to work once Dean was tossed back in the ring, and I loved Rollins’ scientific portion of the match that followed here. Ambrose was stopped from hitting a moonsault by the Architect and placed in the tree of woe and then in a variation of the Million Dollar Dream, however, Ambrose roared back with right hands, a knock down and a suplex of Seth to the outside which took out the lumberjacks and caused a mass brawl outside.
At this point, the match left the ring, as Rollins was backdropped thrillingly into the fans, and even though Dean was marched back into the ring he instantly took them out with a suicide dive, so that he could refocus his attention on Seth, performing that awesome running table spot to take out Kofi and Rollins. A brawl every bit as good as one you might have seen Rock and Mankind have during the Attitude Era followed as Kane, introduced to the story as Director of Operations, sent the lumberjacks after them. As Ambrose got caught by the outside enforcers, Rollins tried to take off, living up to his sneaky heel character, but he was stopped from doing so by the Dusts and the Usos. Ambrose came off the top then in an absolutely awesome spot, taking out all the lumberjacks, but back in the ring, Dirty Deeds was countered into a step up enziguri, but the Lunatic Fringe bounced back with that crazy clothesline, with Rollins selling it into a full 360. I loved the psychology of Ambrose stealing the kerb stomp but Kane, to huge heel hear, broke up the cover. Goldust and Stardust took out the D.O.O and a huge brawl followed, which almost became a mini Royal Rumble, with Ambrose last getting rid of Harper and Rowan but inevitably turning into a briefcase to the face! The story of Ambrose’s chaotic style causing his eventual downfall was fantastic, the Authority influence was felt, and the Attitude Era was channeled brilliantly. These two are having an incredibly special feud, and that match re-defined what a lumberjack could be. I bet those of you who bitched about the stip feel pretty silly about now. A match of the year candidate, for me.
FLYBY RATING: ****¾
Bray Wyatt defeated Chris Jericho
These two had the unenviable job of following one of the hottest matches of the year, and the crowd’s exhaustion was clear, outside of the entrances of the two men, which got strong reactions. As a side note, I really like Wyatt’s creepy brown leather apron. Nice horror imagery. I’m not so sold on the green trousers though. Jericho started strong and took Wyatt out with a springboard shoulder block, climbing outside to throw Wyatt into the barrier, but the cult leader won back the advantage when he knocked Jericho off the turnbuckle. Bray got pleasingly physical, ramming Y2J’s head into the steel steps with his knee before flinging him into the post- I always feel that Wyatt is at his best when he gets really nasty between the ropes. Unfortunately, Bray then resorted to a rest hold, which wasn’t such a smart move as the crowd was dead and needed waking up.
One thing I did appreciate about the match was the way that The Eater of Worlds constantly cut off Y2J’s attempts at a comeback, whether it was foiling top rope attempts or beating the older man to the punch off the ropes. As ever, Wyatt’s character game was on point, with the crazy laughter and shouted prophetic statements both establishing the character’s difference. Trapped in the walls, after a brilliant Sister Abigail counter, Bray was able to do the traditional power out and reach the ropes. Wyatt showed his capacity for creating unique offense when he bounced Jericho’s head off the apron for a near fall, but Jericho caught his crazed opponent on the second rope and hit a good looking huracanrana. Jericho built momentum with a corner charge and a dropkick, but the spider walk through him off his game, which is exactly how that kind of spot should affect someone psychologically speaking. Wyatt, however, walked into the Codebreaker after ranting and raving about being already dead, but he kicked out. The finish showed Bray’s propensity to take advantage of any opportunity, when Jericho missed a baseball slide and Wyatt hit Umaga’s old Samoan Spike finisher and a Sister Abigail onto the barricade in an echo of the Bryan match, with a further Sister Abigial in the ring grabbing him the victory. Wyatt got on the mic afterwards to say that Jericho now knows what it means to follow the buzzards. I’m not sure if that means that the feud will continue or not; with Night of Champions being focused around title matches of various sorts, we’ll have to see how much room there if for special attraction stuff.
Despite the dead crowd and the somewhat methodical pace that limited any kind of heat being drawn to it, this was a better match than it was given credit for in real time. Having just re-watched the bout, it was probably only a faster pace and a better crowd away from being very well received. Unfortunately, it all came together a little awkwardly. I feel like this is a match that may be well served by the passage of time. For now though…
FLYBY RATING: **¾
Stephanie McMahon defeated Brie Bella
Steph certainly embraced the idea of playing the part of an active wrestler, coming out in what can only be described as an interesting outfit, somewhere in the middle of Chyna in 1999 and Seth Rollins in 2014. I really wish she’d come out to ‘No Chance’ though. The McMahon scion looked in great shape and they told a story in the early going of Steph having the weight and power advantage, as she muscled Brie into both corners. Brie was able to show her nimbleness with some arm drags, but got a vicious elbow to the face following a go behind from the Bella twin. Stephanie was utterly methodical, with shoulders in the corner into Brie’s midsection and some well-directed forearms in the corner. The cheap heat of mocking the Yes chants was present and correct and I liked the way that turned into hubris when Brie went for the Yes Lock, forcing Steph to slide out the ring. Brie went for the suicide dive, continuing the theme of using her husband’s offense, but got caught, barely making the count.
What was so impressive about the Principal Owner’s performance throughout was the way she used legitimate wrestling moves and hit them so cleanly; a DDT, a vertical suplex. Story wise, you could see the influence of both their husbands in the way that they were wrestling, but Steph is not as cerebral as Trips, and the trash talk, which Hunter would never indulge in, gave Brie an advantage, and the Bella Twin finally got the crowd behind her by using the Bryan style kicks in the corner and a missile dropkick. Unfortunately, Brie needs to learn to throw punches, as those looked horrible. The inevitable entrance of the King of Kings and Nikki Bella upped the interest level just as the match was flagging, and the distraction of The Game led to Steph going for the Pedigree but Brie countered into the Yes Lock, only for Helmsley to pull out the ref. A Brie baseball slide to Trips got the crowd going, but back in the ring, Nikki decked Brie in the heel turn many had anticipated. Now, to be fair to Nikki, she played her role in the turn well. The Pedigree led to the 1-2-3 and a rather hilariously gross Trips celebration with Stephanie afterwards while Nikki pulled her new “heel face”.
Now, before everybody jumps all over the prospective Nikki vs. Brie feud and starts ranting an raving about not bothering to watch it, can we at least give WWE some props for writing plot lines in the Divas Division? With Steph backing Nikki as a manger figure, there could be some decent television there. Anyway, great effort from Steph and a fun match that exceeded expectations from a ring work point of view. Imagine what Stephanie McMahon could do with a really good diva like Paige or AJ!
FLYBY RATING: **¼
Roman Reigns defeated Randy Orton
This was the bout I was most concerned about before the event itself, as the feud had been lukewarm other than that one Orton beatdown, and Reigns had been booked far too strongly in the weeks that followed. It was clear that this feud had been put together to give Roman a practice run in a high profile spot against a veteran who could carry him to a really good singles effort, but it did not work out that way at all. It didn’t bode well that the announcers kept referring to Reigns as “Superman” before the contest began, and that theme of Randall being his “Kryptonite” was irritatingly present throughout. Overall, the pace was just far too slow, aside from the start and the finish, and I think they also gave the pairing too much time to work with. At this stage in this push, Reigns needs to be working shorter, pacier, high impact matches, rather than this “main event” style bout that he doesn’t quite have the chops for yet.
Reigns showed his speed at the beginning with uppercuts and elbows beating Orton to the punch, before Reigns clotheslined Orton out the ring. However, out there, The Viper showed his kayfabe cunning by sending the former Shield man crashing into the steps. Unfortunately, Orton then followed this with a chinlock of doom. And then another. And then another. Oh there were moves in between, such as an Orton superplex, but the pace was actually painful at this point, and the fact that Reigns too used a reverse chinlock was no help at all. Orton fought out of that with a side suplex, with some good selling and desperation from Orton just prior to that get out of jail card. Finally, a huge Samoan Drop led to The Roman Empire picking up the pace, although it must be said that the basement dropkick set up is getting as contrived as that of the 619 for Rey Mysterio. Reigns showed his power on the outside, but the multi-time world champion back suplexed Roman onto the announce table and then threw him contemptuously into the steps. Randy’s overconfidence began to put him at a disadvantage in the story being told though, as Reigns caught Orton on the ropes and hit an impressive Samoan Drop off the top rope. Reigns set up for the Superman Punch (somewhat overshadowed by the dreaded “we want tables chant in the background) and hit it, but Orton hit that slick snap powerslam counter to the spear! God that pretty much saved the match by itself, but the RKO counter to the second Superman Punch and the subsequent near fall was just as good. The ultimate and inevitable end came when Orton missed the punt and got caught with the spear, and Roman got the strong victory I suspected he’d get.
The closing minutes of the match saved it from being a disaster; if I were to rate the first half of the match, I’d be thinking around the two star mark, but the second half was far, far better and around the three star mark. I think if these two performers had wrestled at the pace they did at the end all the way through they’d have been looking at a really good match. I hope that’s a lesson they learn if these two face off again at the next PPV. I was firm in my belief before the match that it would have been better for Orton to win here to stop this “Superman” nonsense getting out of hand and putting the crowd off him before Reigns has even won a belt, and I maintain that WWE are going to have to be very careful from here.
FLYBY RATING: **½
Brock Lesnar defeated John Cena to win the WWE World Heavyweight Title
I certainly felt that big match occasion for this one, but the crowd were still distressingly dead as Lesnar and Cena made their entrances. Lesnar bouncing on balls of his feet gave him that legitimate fighter aura, and the bell marked him taking down Cena and raining down a flurry of blows just as in the first match between the two. Cena was fighting the onslaught, but it was shown to be too much for the champion, as Lesnar hit the F5 early for the near fall, which provoked a genuinely sick smile from The Anomaly, who then shouted “I’m going to kill you!” at the Franchise Player. Scary stuff and very effective in setting the mood. The poignancy of that one kid shouting “Let’s go Cena” near a microphone was enhanced by the hellacious beating Brock began to inflict, with German after German, sickening knee strike after sickening knee strike. Cena made a brief flurry then, driving Lesnar into the corner but The Beast went back to the ribs with further savage knee strikes which the champion sold superbly by gasping for air. It’s the small details that count, with Lesnar working over Cena’s hands, before breaking out the German suplexes again- four of them, followed by a nonchalant cover from Lesnar, from which Cena kicked out, causing the monstrous Lesnar to go back to the knee strikes.
The dominance of the Anomaly was total and after yet another release German suplex, the referee began to check that Cena could continue. The atmosphere was one of incredulity as the sickening beating continued; it was something you could not take your eyes off. Cena tried to fight again with elbows and right hands and countered the F5 with the AA, but this best shot of Cena was kicked out of by the mountainous Lesnar, who then mounted Cena to rain down further right hands and elbows, UFC style. Another German followed, and this time, Lesnar kept the waist lock and hits multiple Germans. In a final act of desperation, Cena picked the leg and got the STF, but in a nod to his ultimate fighting days, Lesnar was able to roll out of the submission and hit more brutal right hands. With brutal efficiency, the champ up for the F5 and hit it for a second time in the match for the victory. Doctors checked on a prone Cena as a remarkably quiet Heyman finally comes to life by telling his client “you conquered the WWE Universe”.
What a breathtaking, awe-inspiring spectacle. I’m not sure you could describe it as a match, but as a one sided gladiatorial contest where one man got the tar beaten out of him for sixteen minutes. If anything, it was even more brutal than the 2012 contest, despite the lack of blood and the lack of a hardcore stipulation. It’s certainly intriguing to see what’ll happen next; Brock has been rumoured to be working Night of Champions all along, so a Cena rematch seems inevitable. It’s difficult to imagine that the company will make their top guy look that inferior twice in a row, so I think it’s bound to be a different type of match...but the really interesting thing will be whether they hot potato the belt back to Cena or whether they take the braver decision to keep the belt on Lesnar somehow to set up a new babyface to overcome the Goliath. Fascinating times.
FLYBY RATING: ****¼
Summerslam 2014 had two must see matches that delivered handsomely, a variety of fun midcard matches backed up by strong stories leading into the event, and a whole cornucopia of plot threads to watch play out on Monday Night Raw. It was a brilliant big four show and even the slightly disappointing Reigns/Orton and Jericho/Wyatt matches were pretty good fare. Well played, WWE.
OVERALL SUMMERSLAM FLYBY RATING: ****
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Until then, this is Maverick, requesting flyby!